Jim Ott's Blog

This blog is a collection of columns I've written for Bay Area News Group newspapers serving the East San Francisco Bay region.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tiny boy changes world

This column was published in the Tri-Valley Herald on June 24, 2008.

Aimee Hensley’s eyes are brown and her smile is contagious. She works in Livermore and lives in Manteca. She’s married to David. Adapted from her blog, this is her story about a boy who made a difference in the world:

Dameron Hospital, Stockton, Nov. 1, 2007: “Now at only 24 weeks, I was finding myself pushing. My water broke and nearly flooded the doctor and her staff. They induced contractions and 20 minutes later William David Hensley was born. He was tiny at 1 pound 8 ounces and only 12 inches long, but he was hanging in there. It was such an emotional roller coaster to see how tiny this little baby was, and how much he was fighting to live.”
Nov. 3: “Will is now a little over 55 hours old and still fighting. The doctor was worried about his kidneys, but he is showing signs of improvement. He does not enjoy having his diaper changed because this morning his heart stopped three different times. This afternoon the doctor decreased his blood pressure medication, which is great. And his kidneys are continuing to improve. We are trying to remain optimistic, because he deserves a good chance at life.”
Nov. 5: “Will had a brain ultrasound today and no bleeding was found. His skin is translucent, so we can see underneath the skin. During his blood transfusion yesterday you could actually see the blood flowing through his veins. At this point, we could not ask for better results. To see him making such strides is really a miracle right before our eyes.”
Nov. 7: “Will is still proving to be fighter. I was able to visit for quite some time this afternoon, even during his assessment. But he did fine and I am glad I stayed because I got to hold his hand. Though Will is stable, we have a long road ahead of us. Please continue your thoughts and prayers; he needs them now to stay strong and defy the odds.”
Nov. 8: “I always have anxiety driving to the hospital and going up to the 3rd floor, but once I see how peaceful he is, I feel much better. When parents talk about the overwhelming love they feel for their children, I always wondered how that felt. Now I know how that feels.”
Nov. 9: “Will is breathing well today and is starting to move around quite a bit. This shows he is not suffering from pain, but we also don’t want him to use up all his energy showing off his new dance moves. Each day is a new day and we are so thankful for him. He is now just over eight days old and fighting strong with a WILL to live!”
Nov. 12: “Today was the best day yet! I was able to hold the little man for an entire hour.”
Nov. 14: “They stopped his feedings due to residue in his tummy. His blood sugar has been high, so they are giving him insulin. His oxygen has been low, so they increased the oxygen on his ventilator. His blood pressure has been low, so he is back on Dopamine. And yesterday they gave him a second dose of Curosurf that helps when he is in respiratory distress. All of this sounds overwhelming, and it is. But everything happening is expected with a micro preemie. What really matters is how he handles the treatment.”
Nov. 15: “The little man is starting to open his eyes. They won't do a vision test until December, but he responds to our voices, so I know he is aware of our presence, even if at this point he cannot see us.”
Nov. 20: “Will continues to love to lie on his tummy. We are consistently seeing a ‘poopie’ diaper! I know this sounds gross, but as tiny as he is, pooping on his own is great news.”
Thanksgiving: “We have so much to be thankful for. Last night our nurse was wiping his mouth and Will started sucking on her finger. She let me place my pinky into his mouth to feel his sucking.”
Nov. 23: “Kangaroo Care is an essential part of Will's recovery. It’s where Will is placed directly onto my chest for skin-to-skin contact and so he can sense my heartbeat. This immediately benefited his oxygen level, blood pressure and heart rate. Dads also can hold their baby and bond with Kangaroo Care.”
Nov. 30: “This morning the nurse noticed blood in his stool. They stopped his feedings and ordered an x-ray. One thing they are trying to avoid is infection of the intestines, called necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC. In addition this afternoon Will starting looking pale, so they ordered a blood transfusion and tests. For the majority of the day his oxygen was good until about 5 p.m. when his oxygen dropped lower than I have ever seen it before.”
Late evening, Nov. 30: “I am so extremely sad to post that this evening our precious little Will passed away. He gave us and many family and friends a wonderful month. Even though many of you did not meet him personally, you touched his heart. His passing came so quickly that no one was prepared. In the end, NEC took its toll more aggressively than anyone could have ever imagined.”
Today, six months after Will’s passing, Aimee Hensley thinks about her baby every day: “We were with Will for each of the 30 days of his lifetime,” she said, her brown eyes welling with tears. “He was our little boy, and because he lived he’s changed the world for other premature babies who follow him at Dameron Hospital.”
Until Will came along, the medical staff didn’t use Kangaroo Care as a treatment. One nurse insisted it be tried, and Will’s positive responses to being placed on his mother’s chest impressed the doctors. Now every nurse is trained in the technique.
What a wonderful legacy for a 12-inch boy who even today is touching the lives of other babies on their embattled road to survival.



Will's Mommy said...

Thank you, Jim for allowing your words to tell Will's story. He was such a special little boy and I truly believe his time on earth was for a reason, which he has already proven to many of us.


Jim Ott said...


Thank YOU for allowing me to share the story of your and David's little boy with my readers.

And of course, the vast majority of the words in the column aren't my words--they're yours. Thank you for capturing Will's story in your blog, for sharing with us your day-to-day hopes and challenges and, finally and sadly, your loss.

And yet the world is a better place because Will lived. Just by being with his mom, he has made life better for babies who follow him at Dameron.


she said...

what a beautiful story.. beautiful message inside the sorrow

of love

and hope

and of how each life matters; can matter

we, in our family, are so grateful for kangaroo care

it seems common sense, but for so long hospitals did not promote or advocate for it

at least three children in my immediate family circle have benefited.. born very premature, but thriving today

and human touch, human contact..

this is important for everyone, not just premature babies

skin to skin contact, hugs, kisses, snuggling.. holding hands.. a pat on the back

we should not -at any age- underestimate the value of human touch

or underestimate the power of love

my prayers & blessings to this beautiful family.. these courageous parents; each staff member & person who cared for this precious baby

love and hugs, ~s.